Neighbors Of West Tulsa Refinery React To Early Morning Explosion, Fire

Thursday, August 2nd 2012, 7:04 pm
By: News On 6

Residents in west Tulsa woke up around 2 a.m. Thursday to the fire at the Holly Refinery in the diesel hydro-treater, which removes sulfur from the diesel fuel.

The fire was in the east plant and some neighbors told us they heard a huge boom before seeing the flames.

One woman lives so close, she could actually feel the heat, through her windows. It was the bright light and not the loud noise that woke her early Thursday morning.

"I was sleeping. It seemed like the room was lit and I got up," Mary Widowski said. "I was surprised how close it was. I could feel the heat through the window of the living room. It was terrifying."

Widowski realized if the fire spread, she could lose her home and everything in it.

She called 911, and then wasn't sure if it was safe to stay or if they should go.

Her first instinct was get moving.

"Evacuate. What do you do? What do you pack? There's potential of losing everything, so what do you decide is valuable?" Widowski said.

As it turned out, they stayed inside as the Holly firefighters on site, worked to contain and eventually put out the fire.

8/2/2012 Related Story: Company Investigating Explosion, Fire at West Tulsa Oil Refinery

The Tulsa fire department was on standby to help if needed.

Don Tiger has lived near the refinery for 56 years and has seen many fires over the years.

"The fire got up to five stories over there," Tiger said.

He said he gets frustrated when neighbors are not notified.

"There's no warning, no alarm—just a huge fire," Tiger said.

He said he doesn't expect to learn what caused it, but is thankful no one at the plant or in the neighborhood was hurt.

They stayed inside and watched as the flames got smaller and were eventually extinguished.

"My mother is 89 years old, so we couldn't get out quickly if we wanted to," Tiger said.

Because the fire happened where the sulfur is removed in order to meet fuel standards, the Department of Environmental Quality checked its air quality monitor on the northwest side of the refinery for sulfur dioxide.

They said there was some slight elevation, but nothing significant and nothing exceeding safe levels.

The cause of the fire has not yet been released.